Community Preservation Act

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. St. Mark's Church is requesting a CPA grant to help partially fund the preservation of the landmark tower in Southborough

More than $9.6 million in CPA historic preservation grants have been awarded to active religious organizations across Massachusetts since March 2018.

The Purpose of CPA Funds

CPA funds give Massachusetts cities and towns a tool to preserve their most unique natural, community, and built features in the face of rapid growth and development.

The Community Preservation Act allows cities and towns to create a special Community Preservation Fund by assessing a surcharge on annual real estate taxes. Monies in that fund provide for open space, historic resources, and affordable housing purposes. Communities also receive additional matching monies for their CPA fund from a state trust fund.

      • Massachusetts CPA law was passed in 2000.
      • Southborough Voters passed town CPA in May 2003 at 1% surcharge on real estate taxes after exempting the first $100k of assessed value.
      • Revenue Collection began in July 2003.
      • Community Preservation Committee (CPC) approved by Town Meeting and created in 2004
      • First projects approved at Town Meeting 2005.
      • No new or additional taxes will be imposed if this project is approved.
      • The median household in Southborough pays about $80 in taxes to the CPA fund each year.
      • St. Mark’s listed in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) database run by the Massachusetts Historical Commission signifying historic properties both individually and as part of the historic town center.

Precedent of Using CPA Funds for Active Religious Organizations

CPA funds are intended to support historic projects such as the restoration of the St. Mark’s Bell & Clock Tower.

Religious organizations are eligible to apply for and receive CPA funding. The Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution has not been violated by religious organizations using public funds (see Espinoza v. Montana Dept of Revenue and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer).

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling (3/8/18) agrees: “Public funds should (be used for) buildings that can benefit all members of the community equally, not ones that are mainly used by members of one particular faith.” The free-standing tower was built to serve as a public clock, and adds to the character of the town for all. Southborough’s town counsel expressed that St. Mark’s Tower project, if awarded a CPA grant, would be “totally defensible.” 

There is ample precedence that has been set by other Massachusetts cities and towns that have approved CPA grants to active religious organizations since the SJC ruling in 2018:

“These historic and archaeological resources are a valuable material record of the history of Southborough and significantly enhance the quality of life in the Town. They enhance the scenic qualities of the landscape, establish community character and identity, and in large part define what is unique about the Town of Southborough. The historic properties and sites that comprise the cultural landscape in Southborough are both finite and non-renewable. Once destroyed, they are lost forever.” — 2008 Southborough Master Plan, with St. Mark’s Church listed as one such historic property